Ghost Rider is among the most popular superheroes ever created. His iconic look and incredible powers launched him into stardom as soon as the character was created back in 1972 by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Mike Ploog. We’ve analyzed so many aspects and versions of Ghost Rider so far, but one aspect of his character remains relatively unexplored: his moral alignment. This is why we decided to analyze this in more depth. Now let’s find out whether Ghost Rider is a superhero, anti-hero, or a villain.
Ghost Rider is classified as an anti-hero mostly because he doesn’t stray away from killing people and is obsessed with vengeance rather than doing the right things. Ghost Rider never exactly fits in the “Superman” archetype of a superhero. His moral standings, as well as his looks, balance more toward a “morally grey” character. Even though he kills, Ghost Rider is not a villain because Spirits of Vengeance are benevolent entities in themselves.
Now that we’ve covered the main issues, it’s time to analyze them in more detail. If you’re interested in all the reasons why Ghost Rider is considered an anti-hero rather than a villain, stay with us and keep reading!
Spirits of Vegenace are mostly benevolent entities created for a good reason
The key aspect of any Ghost Rider’s personality is the Spirit of Vengeance that possesses him and actually makes him the Ghost Rider. Some Ghost Riders have more control over the entities (like Danny Ketch), and some are totally unable to control them (like Johny Blaze in the beginning).
But Spirits of Vengeance were never evil or created evil. Their origin story is rather confusing, with some accounts claiming that they are demons and some accounts claiming that they are of divine nature. Most people associated Spirits of Vengeance with Mephisto and hell, but Caretaker offered a different account of what went down at the moment that the first Spirits were created.
Following the great flood, God made a deal with humans that he would never try to exterminate them again, but he was disappointed that humans hadn’t changed their evil and malignant ways, quite on the contrary, they were becoming exponentially worse and constantly thinking of the ways to “up their evil game.” (Probably because of the promise, they have fallen into a false sense of security).
Still, even though God promised not to strike them with another mass extinction, that doesn’t necessarily mean that his hands are tied. He created the Spirits of Vegenace, who were supposed to get rid of the worst members of society. The Spirits of Vengeance were like C.I.A. of Heaven, doing God’s dirty work.
Since Spirits had a pretty violent approach to punishing sinners and giving out vengeance, God didn’t want to be exactly connected to them, which is why he put Archangel Zadkiel in charge to manipulate them from shadows and keep their true origin hidden. Zadkiel will eventually rebel against Heaven, but this is a story for another time.
Anyway, as you can see, Spirits of Vengeance aren’t necessarily evil. Quite on the contrary, they are messengers of God’s justice, and sometimes this can be brutal. The important thing to remember is that, in theory, they are supposed to punish the wicked and the sinful and protect the innocent, taking their methods into account. This, at worst, makes them morally grey.
Ghost Rider is far too violent to be a superhero
Now that we’ve given you a quick summary and eliminated the “villain” from the equation, it’s time to explain why Ghost Rider can never be a superhero.
First, his judgment is far too narrow. We know that Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare works on the principle “If you’re feeling guilty about it, you will suffer.” This isn’t such a great rule because an objectively good person can feel subjective guilt because of something that he had far less control over than the person realizes. This can result in innocents getting hurt.
Ghost Rider also doesn’t shy away from killing villains, his abilities are lethal, and when he sets his sights on an evildoer, he will never wait for the law to settle it. He will enact his punishment, no matter the reason behind it. Technically you can argue that Ghost Rider doesn’t kill, that the person committing sins is responsible for the evil things they’ve done and hence passed the judgment on themselves, and Ghost Rider is simply here to deliver it. But still, the act of killing immediately disqualifies Ghost Rider from wearing the superhero title.
Ghost Rider is also not here to save the innocents. He is here mostly to punish the wicked, his motives are, for the most part, one-sided, and he is doing what he is compelled to do. You will rarely see Superman being motivated by pure burning vengeance and getting satisfaction out of it.
Ghost Rider’s personality and overall visual style are far too edgy for him to be a superhero, something from which Batman had also suffered over the years. Ghost Rider has a burning skull and a flaming chain. He rides a bike (most of the versions) and wears leather. He is violent, sometimes uses foul language, and you’re never sure whether he will turn on you or not.
The most popular Ghost Rider of all time, Johnny Blaze, also sold his soul to the devil practically for selfish reasons, and this is how he got stuck with the Spirit of Vengeance in the first place.
Ghost Rider is far too violent to be a superhero. He is mostly an anti-hero due to the fact that he kills, he is motivated by vengeance instead of saving people, and his looks are far too aggressive when compared to other superheroes that are presented in benevolent or patriotic visual styles with light colors and motives.
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